Becoming a mom is one of the toughest challenges you’ll face—and also the most rewarding. There are so many physical changes that happen during a pregnancy, let alone on a mental or emotional level. Among these many changes is your period.
The short answer here is that if you’re breastfeeding, you probably won’t have a period at all for a few months. This is because, for your body to produce breast milk, your brain produces higher levels of prolactin, meaning that you won’t be ovulating (aka your ovaries aren’t releasing eggs).
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, we’ve outlined a few scenarios of what might happen. As always, we’re here to help. If you need resources on this or any other topic, these are some of our favorite brands offering support.
A few things to keep in mind
It might go without saying, but when you’re taking birth control pills for contraception, your periods will probably be lighter, shorter, either more or less painful or skipped altogether. In most cases, returning to birth control will give you lighter periods once they resume, whereas if you don’t return to BC, your periods will be heavier (more on that below).
While some contraceptives do work to regulate periods, using a copper IUD, may cause your first few periods after insertion to be heavier because they don’t contain any hormones.
If you have a history of endometriosis or have had lots of period pain in the past, your period postpartum might be easier at first, but then return to your normal rhythm later. As Cleveland Clinic explains, “a holdover of increased levels of progesterone from pregnancy may cause endometrial implants to get smaller. The result is less painful periods.”
Your period might return earlier or later than expected
The biggest indicator here is whether you are breastfeeding or not. As reported in Motherly, “if a woman is not breastfeeding, then the first menses usually returns at six weeks postpartum to three months postpartum.” Of course, that’s still quite a gap in time, so it might still be difficult to predict when your period will return.
Elizabeth Sauter, MD, Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also explains that for exclusive breastfeeding mamas, it can be even more tricky predicting the timing. She suggests that for these moms, expect your period to come back at least six months after giving birth.
That first period postpartum will probably be extra heavy
Get ready, mamas! For your first period postpartum, it’s probably going to be heavier than normal. Not only is there the shedding of your uterine lining, but you’re also going to experience shedding of any clots of blood from the delivery of your baby.
We know, you thought the postpartum bleeding stage was over! The good news is that while yes, you will bleed heavier than you’re used to, it will be less painful the farther away it is from your baby’s birth.
It might be hard to track your first few periods
Mommyhood is all about expecting the unexpected and this includes postpartum periods. For moms who choose not to breastfeed often, their periods will likely return to normal more or less within the first year of giving birth.
As we’ve covered, breastfeeding moms may not get back to that 28-day cycle (or the frequency you’re used to) for some time. Oddly enough, moms who maybe had less regular periods before giving birth, can sometimes get on a more regular schedule postpartum.
Basically, there are three things that are going to happen here: your periods will go back to normal, they may get worse or they could get better.
It might not be a period at all
If you’ve given birth pretty recently, you may see some bleeding that is not a period but in fact lochia, a natural discharge after giving birth. It can appear dark red, it’s easy to confuse with regular periods. You might even pass clots—another hint that this is a period even though it’s not—but eventually this bleeding will get lighter and turn clear before stopping altogether.
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